Since the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ability of everyday Americans to easily record video on their phones, social awareness of acts of police violence has increased significantly.
The Editorial Board believes these acts have demonstrated a profound need for better discernment when it comes to the selection of our nation’s police officers.
While our attention was heavily concentrated on the not guilty verdict of Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, two other incidents occurred last week that went seemingly unnoticed.
In Los Angeles, police officers mistakenly shot a 17-year-old after trying to kill a “charging pit bull,” according to the LA Times.
The animal had bitten an officer in the knee, prompting the teenager to restrain the dog so it wouldn’t attack again.
Deputies claim not to have seen the young man in the darkness.
They opened fire on the pit bull, which resulted in a ricocheted bullet striking the teenager in the chest and killing him.
While a dog may be intimidating and dangerous, the decision to unload their firearms on the animal ended the life of an innocent bystander.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, an on-duty police officer shot an off-duty officer from the same department, according to CBS.
After hearing a car crash outside his home, an off-duty officer rushed to the scene carrying his department-issued firearm.
Armed suspects fled the scene on foot, prompting a chase, during which the on-duty officers mistook the off-duty officer for one of the suspects.
They ordered the officer to the ground, so he complied. They then asked him to “stand up and walk toward them.”
As he was doing so, another on-duty officer arrived at the scene and, “fearing for his safety,” shot the off-duty officer in the arm.
The officer was treated at the hospital and has since been released.
Despite the off-duty officer having laid down his weapon and despite two other on-duty officers having taken command of the situation, this officer somehow felt his life was in enough danger to shoot a person.
The Editorial Board believes these events highlight a “trigger-happy” culture in our nation’s police force and speak to the urgent need for a shift in attitude from some of our police officers.
In an interview with the Atlantic, Donald Grady II, a retired police chief with more than 30 years of experience serving in multiple cities, said on police violence: “This is an issue of who it is that we’ve decided we would allow to police our country. Policing was never designed to take care of the people that it is being forced upon.”
Similarly, University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton has observed a distinction between police who view themselves as guardians versus warriors.
Guardians, he argues, are more likely to see their role as a peacekeeper, whereas warriors see themselves as “wielders of authority,” according to his piece in the Harvard Law Review.
Meanwhile, compared to other countries, American police kill as many people in mere days as it takes other national police forces to do in years or decades, according to The Guardian.
This level of violence in our country and among our police officers cannot continue.
For the safety of American citizens, the Editorial Board urges our officers to change their police culture, gun culture and what it means to “protect and serve.”